Tenants are having their lives put at risk by inexperienced or complacent landlords disregarding their electrical safety obligations.
The Electrical Safety Council says that one-fifth of tenants report concerns with electrical safety.
It says that misunderstandings between landlords and tenants over responsibilities for safety are exposing millions of people to life-threatening electrical dangers.
It claims that independent research – carried out by Populus among 2,000 adults – shows that three in ten landlords and two-fifths of renters do not know who is responsible for electrical safety in their rented properties.
By law, landlords must ensure electrical installations and wiring are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy. And tenants should feel obliged to flag electrical problems as soon as they appear, as well as maintain any electrical items they bring into the house.
The consequences for not understanding obligations can be serious. If a landlord is found to be negligent over electrical safety it can lead to prosecution, with a fine of up to £5,000 on each count or imprisonment. This may come as a shock to the 38% of landlords who, according to the research, don’t believe there are any penalties for failing to maintain safety.
In response to the statistics, the ESC has produced a simple guide for landlords outlining how to ensure the electrical safety of a property.
Anneke Rousseau, ESC’s head of communications, said: “It is important that all landlords understand their obligations and ensure the safety of their tenants. Part of the confusion may arise from the fact that landlords are legally responsible for an annual gas safety check but it is not a legal requirement for electrical safety.
“And so we are encouraging landlords and tenants to start talking more openly with each other about this vital safety issue.”
The ESC is also calling on landlords to ensure that there is adequate RCD (Residual Current Device) protection in all of their properties, as fewer than half of UK households (49%) have adequate RCD protection and the number drops to just 30% for private tenants.
An RCD is a life-saving device that protects against dangerous electric shock and reduces the risk of electrical fires. Plug-in RCDs should be used if there is no RCD in the fusebox.
The ESC also wants landlords to carry out regular Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) in their properties.
Richard Price, director of operations at the National Landlords Association, said: “Landlords have an obligation to provide safe accommodation, and compliance with electrical safety regulations helps to achieve that.
“The NLA welcomes these guidelines from the Electrical Safety Council, spelling out how landlords can make their properties safe for tenants and reduce electrical accidents. Tenants also need to be encouraged not to alter the installation, and to raise any safety issues with their landlord immediately, so they can be addressed as promptly as possible.”
Alan Ward, chairman of the Residential Landlords Association, said: “Good landlords will carry out routine checks of their properties and encourage tenants to be responsible with electricity. Government statistics show that misuse causes most of the accidental domestic fires originating from electrical sources.”
A checklist for electrical safety in rental properties can be found at: